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Klaus Barbie
was born in Bad Godesberg, near Bonn, October 25, 1913. He joined the SS and later began a career in espionage.  In May 1941 Barbie was posted to the Bureau of Jewish affairs, as an intelligence officer.  He was then attached the Amsterdam Gestapo and in November 1942 he was posted to Lyon, France. While in France he was to penetrate and destroy the resistance in Lyon and carried out his task with unmatched brutality.

Simone Lagrange, a soft-spoken Holocaust survivor whose family was exterminated, later recalled the arrest of her father, mother and herself on June 6, 1944.  Denounced by a French neighbor as Jews, Simone and her parents were taken to Gestapo headquarters where a man, dressed in gray and caressing a kitten, said Simone was pretty. Klaus Barbie ..

"He was caressing the cat. And me, a kid 13 years old, I could not imagine that he could be evil because he loved animals. I was tortured by him for eight days."
During the following week, the man hauled her out of a prison cell each day, he yanked her by her hair, beating and punching at her open wounds in an effort to obtain information.

Another survivor, Lise Lesevre, recalled how Klaus Barbie tortured her for nine days in 1944, beating her, nearly drowning her in a bathtub. She told how she was hung up by hand cuffs with spikes inside them and beaten with a rubber bar. She was ordered to strip naked and get into a tub filled with freezing water. Her legs were tied to a bar across the tub and Barbie yanked a chain attached to the bar to pull her underwater.

During her last interrogation, Barbie ordered her to lie flat on a chair and struck her on the back with a spiked ball attached to a chain. It broke a vertebrae, and she suffered the rest of her life.

Another survivor, Ennat Leger, said Klaus Barbie "had the eyes of a monster. He was savage. My God, he was savage! It was unimaginable. He broke my teeth, he pulled my hair back. He put a bottle in my mouth and pushed it until the lips split from the pressure."

A dedicated sadist, responsible for many individual atrocities, including the capture and deportation to Auschwitz of forty-four Jewish children hidden in the village of Izieu, Klaus Barbie owed his postwar notoriety primarily to one of his 'cases', the arrest and torture unto death of Jean Moulin, one of the highest ranking member of the French Resistance.

Jean Moulin was mercilessly tortured by Klaus Barbie and his men. Hot needles where shoved under his fingernails. His fingers were forced through the narrow space between the hinges of a door and a wall and then the door was repeatedly slammed until the knuckles broke.

Screw-levered handcuffs were placed on Moulin and tightened until they bit through his flesh and broke through the bones of his wrists. He would not talk. He was whipped. He was beaten until his face was an unrecognizable pulp. A fellow prisoner, Christian Pineau, later described the resistance leader as "unconscious, his eyes dug in as though they had been punched through his head. An ugly blue wound scarred his temple. A mute rattle came out of his swollen lips."

Jean Moulin remained in this coma when he was shown to other resistance leaders who were being interrogated at Gestapo headquarters. Barbie had ordered Moulin put on display in an office. His unconscious form sprawled on a chaise lounge. His face was yellow, his breathing heavy, his head swathed in bandages. It was the last time Moulin was seen alive.

On behalf of his cruel crimes and specially for the Moulin case, Barbie was awarded, by Hitler himself, the 'First Class Iron Cross with Swords'.

After the war Klaus Barbie was recruited by the Western Allies and worked for the British until 1947, then he switched his allegiance to the CIA. With the aid of the Americans he fled in 1950 prosecution in France and relocated to South America together with his wife and children.

He lived in Bolivia as a businessman under the name Klaus Altmann from 1951. Klaus Barbie was identified in Bolivia at least as early as 1971 by the Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, who has devoted their life to searching out Nazi war criminals and bringing them to justice. Beate and Serge Klarsfeld were almost single-handedly responsible for bringing the infamous Barbie, nicknamed the "Butcher Of Lyons", to trial for his crimes against humanity.

But it was only in February 1983 that the Bolivian government after long negotiations extradited him to France to stand trial.

Klaus Barbie, responsible for the torture and death of thousands of people, was tried in a French court and sentenced to life imprisonment for a series of crimes against humanity, almost all involving the arrest and deportation to extermination camps of Jews and Resistance members, including the roundup of the Jewish children from Izieu, April 6, 1944.

Serge Klarsfeld later said it was Izieu, more than any other atrocity laid to Klaus Barbie's account, that put the Nazi in the category of major war criminals. "If Barbie was remembered and hunted, it was for the children at Izieu", Klarsfeld said.

Klaus Barbie died of cancer in prison on September 25, 1991.

 

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Louis Bülow ©2007-09
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